My father would say, to no one in particular, “People dyin’ today, ain’t never died before.” A sentence, I’m sure, somehow passed down through the generations, repeated by his uncle or father, mistranslated as it was brought from some homeland across the sea. We would see him each day briefly, a flash if we got up early, or for me a shadow wandering through my bedroom after he dressed quietly.
At dinner he was a rabid basset, face full of forkfuls of food heaped high on his plate. In his easy chair, a detached torso hidden behind the high and wide walls of the daily news. His voice would clear before it bellowed. And we all hoped the words about to come out would be nothing political or incendiary, destined to start an argument. Instead he would laugh and say it.
It could have been The Duke, Belushi, Hudson or Gleason. Someone well known or insignificant. He would eulogize them all the same. All with a send off ironic and comical. He sloughed off death without a care.
That I could be so detached and so cold. I, who hated the man to the core, and who could not get out a sentence without tears flowing when it was his time to go.
People dyin’ today. People who’ve died a thousand times. Reborn mystics and hangers on. Ghosts and poltergeists (though they have never been alive). People dyin’ from speaking and from silence. But mostly dyin’, by breakfast, by work and by leisure, dyin’ just trying to use their wit, be clever, just dyin’ to get by.